In the Islamic faith, funerals have a strong emphasis on community.  

Typically, members of the community who may not even be a close connection of the deceased will attend to show their respect. This is out of the belief that the loss of one member of the community is a loss for all.  

Though traditions vary from family-to-family, we’ve outlined some of the most common funeral rituals in the Islamic faith.  

Islamic Funeral Planning  

Islamic funerals mark the transition from death to the afterlife. They are structured to comfort the grieving, while also praying to Allah to have mercy on the loved one who has died.  

Community is central to Muslim funerals.  

When planning, look to resources in your community. Often, the mosque is the most available resource. Prayer rooms and courtyards of mosques are typically where funerals are held, so the mosque will be your best resource for planning and preparation.  

Islamic Funeral Etiquette  

If you are planning to attend a Muslim funeral as a non-Muslim, take into account that modesty and moderation are key elements of funeral rites.  

Sending flowers, for example, may vary by family. Typically, the immediate family takes responsibility for the flowers. So, consider making a donation in the name of the deceased to a charitable cause instead.  

Take care to dress modestly out of respect for the community. Avoid makeup or flashy colors. Women should be fully covered and wear loose-fitting clothing. It’s also customary to go barefoot, leaving your shoes at the door.  

Muslim funerals, apart from prayer, are quiet and dignified events.  

Exhibiting decorum and avoiding loud displays of grief is essential. There shouldn’t be any loud wailing or showing extreme emotion. Crying is considered acceptable.  

Taking photographs or recording on your cell phone are also prohibited.   

Islamic Funeral Rituals  

Before the Funeral  

In the Islamic faith, it’s of the utmost importance that the burial take place as soon as possible after death. For this reason, there is no viewing or visitation. 

Family members take care of washing and covering the body, placing the deceased’s hands in a prayer-like position. Men take care of washing men and women take care of washing women. The body is then shrouded in long, white sheets and then secured with rope. From there, the body is transported to the location of the funeral. Open caskets are rare.  

Embalming is not allowed unless required by state or provincial law. This directory for Canada outlines funeral regulations. If in the United States, consult the FTC for policies.   

Cremation is also forbidden. Muslims strongly believe there will be a resurrection on Judgement day, so it’s important to avoid any desecration of the body.  

Organ donation is accepted in the Muslim faith, however routine autopsies are not. It is seen as a desecration of the body. Except in the case of a suspected crime, autopsies are most often avoided.  

During the Funeral  

Islamic funerals typically take place at mosques.  

The ceremony is typically short, less than an hour. They are often held in areas like a prayer room or courtyard where members of the community are gathered. An imam typically oversees Muslim funerals.  

Mecca is the holy center of Islam. For this reason, the body and all attendees face the direction of Mecca for the ceremony. 

Muslims wear white to funerals as a sign of humility and wholesomeness. However, other colors can be worn as long as they are somber and show respect.  

Men wear plain loose-fitting clothing that don’t show any skin. Women’s clothing typically cover everything but their face and hands, like long skirts and high-necked shirts.  

Funeral prayers are said by all members of the community during the funeral. And, like the funeral itself, they are to be performed in a prayer room or courtyard - rather within the mosque itself. Lines are formed to pray, with men most closely related to the person who died in the first line, children in the second line and women in the back.  

There are various prayers in the Islamic faith devoted to death, dying and burial. For an in-depth look and a list of common prayers, resources like this one are available online.  

After prayers, the body is transported for burial.  

The procession to the burial site is silent and, typically, only attended by men. This can vary by community.  

There are specific guidelines for how the body can be buried. Those are:  

  • The casket is carried by four men in the family.  
  • The grave should be dug perpendicular so the body may face Mecca. 
  • The body should be placed in the grave on its right side, facing Mecca. 
  • As the body is placed in the grave, those placing the body say this line, “In the name of Allah and in the faith of the Messenger of Allah.” 
  • After the body has been placed, a layer of wood or stones are laid on top to avoid direct contact with the body and soil.  
  • Each mourner places three handfuls of soil into the grave.  

Once the body is buried, a small stone or grave marker can be used to mark the location. It would be rare to find a large or ostentatious monument on top of a Muslim grave.  

After the Funeral  

Following the service and burial, mourners gather in the home of the deceased’s closest family.  

This is when you can express condolences and share in the family’s grief in a more personal way. Typically, these events last all day and a meal is served. Joining together in remembrance of the deceased helps support the family through their loss.  

In the days following the death, members of the community support the family by dropping off meals for them.  

In the most traditional families, the mourning period lasts 40 days. However, this may be shortened in more modern Muslim households. Widows are generally expected to observe a longer period of mourning of more than four months.  

Where to Start 

If you are a member of the Islamic community, you might already be familiar with these customs and rituals. Adherence to funeral practices does vary from community-to-community and by family.  

If your loved one has expressed specific wishes for their funeral, take those into account while still paying respect to important rituals.  

Sources:  

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule#:~:text=No%20state%20law%20requires%20routine,refrigeration%20is%20an%20acceptable%20alternative.  

https://www.everplans.com/articles/muslim-funeral-traditions 

https://cremationinstitute.com/muslim-funeral-traditions/ 

https://www.burialplanning.com/resources/religious-funerals-guide/islamic-funeral-guide  

https://bsia.ca/A-Guide-for-the-Muslim-Funeral.pdf